I grew up with the command not to go swimming for at least 30 minutes after eating a meal or I’d get a cramp and drown. As a child, it was never explained to me what a cramp was as I’d never experienced one, nor how that could make me drown in a pool not much deeper than my waist, but we followed that rule to the letter.
Ours was a round above-ground pool dad erected one summer, and I remember watching other kids swim while I sat waiting until that 30 minutes was up. “NOWWWW mom?” I would plead. “Well, it’s almost 30 minutes, be careful, if you feel a cramp get out right away, we don’t want you to drown!”
Since those days the ’30 minute rule’ has been proven false, what is called an ‘urban legend’, yet the belief persists that one must wait at least 30 minutes after eating to go swimming.
People do get cramps while swimming, but it is because of extreme exertion using muscles they haven’t used in a while or aren’t used to using that way rather than having just eaten, and people do sometimes drown as a result. But somewhere in the hazy past someone concluded his leg cramp happened because he had eaten 30 minutes earlier and an urban legend was born. People naturally connected the dots, though they are generally unrelated.
Sin versus sins
And so it is today I want to talk about the difference between sin and sins. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him he said: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”* Why did he say Jesus takes away the sin of the world instead of He ‘takes away your sins‘? *John 1:29.
Church culture connects the two like leg cramps automatically happen after eating, but like my example, they are not the same thing. Technically speaking, Jesus didn’t take our individual sins on Himself, but rather the sin of the world on Himself.
Weren’t we were taught in Sunday School that Jesus took our sins on the cross, or that our sins put Him on the cross? How many preachers have painted a vivid and gory word picture of Jesus bleeding and dying on the cross with our individual sins killing Him? For John the Baptist’s point, that isn’t technically true however.
Getting to the root of the matter
From the sin of the world flows all individual sins, so if you take away the sin of the world then our individual sins are rendered powerless. Huh?
Romans 5:12 says it this way: “…because of this, through one man sin entered into the world and through that sin death entered the world…”
Adam didn’t allow sins into the world, he allowed sin to enter the world. Think of it like a pomegranate, that delicious fruit that is filled with seeds. The sin of the world is like the whole fruit, and the individual sins are like all those seeds.
If you throw away the whole of the fruit you automatically throw away all those seeds contained within the fruit. Jesus removed the whole fruit, so the seeds are included in that act. Jesus took away the sin of the world, not our specific sins individually.
What is sin, exactly?
When I went through the Episcopal church confirmation class I was told sin is anything that doesn’t please God. That left me wondering if someone could define for me what exactly what He liked and didn’t like that I might please Him, but no one ever gave me that list other than the 10 Commandments.
And I’ve heard that sins make God angry and He would normally strike me down were it not for Jesus coming to stand up to what seemed to be a heavenly bully of a Father – go Jesus, keep Him away from me – was the image in my mind back then.
And there is a verse that says anything not of faith is sin* but that is in context about eating choices and eating what we eat as unto the Lord, not a blanket doctrinal statement. For years I didn’t know the context, so I tried to figure out if taking a shower was somehow in faith or was that a sin, as well as other normal functions of life - am I in faith while eating lunch? Was I in faith while going to work? No one ever defined what being in faith was or wasn’t so I gave up trying to figure it out. *Romans 14:23
Here it is
And in all those times people told me sin was anything not pleasing to God, or sin was something that made Him angry or that I hurt Him when I did it, no one ever actually referred to the Bible definition of what sin is. Fortunately the apostle John defined SINS and SIN in I John 3:4:
“Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness.” (NAB)
Notice the definition – committing a sin (sins) is a commission of lawlessness, and sin IS lawlessness.
SIN is lawlessness. So what is lawlessness?
Lawlessness is literally the ‘throwing off of all rule’, or ‘the throwing off of restraint’. If you think of law as God’s will, God’s rule, God’s government in your life and the world, then lawlessness as a word makes sense – it is the throwing off of the will (government or rule) of God, first in the earth and secondarily to you and I.
When we sin we are committing a tiny sliver, a portion of throwing off God’s rule in that single area of our life so we can do the evil thing or the thing WE want to do rather than what He wants us to do. So the ‘sin of the world’ is the throwing off of God’s will, God’s rule or government in the earth.
What Adam did
What Adam did was to let into the world SIN not sins, law-lessness, the throwing off of God’s government and rule in the earth. By letting in sin, then naturally sins followed.
Up to that point in Adam and Eve’s life the idea of throwing off God’s rule in favor of man ruling without God was unheard of, not even in their thoughts until the tempter made the suggestion they do so. They walked with the Lord in the Garden – they had never considered shutting Him out of their lives in order to do what THEY wanted to do – they just naturally wanted to do what He wanted to do.
They knew only good, they didn’t know evil. Though more brilliant than Einstein but with the innocence of toddlers - who don’t know or care they are naked.
The Bible says Eve was deceived into the transgression but Adam was not*. Adam committed treason.* He figured it out as Satan tempted them ‘to be like God’ and knew exactly what he was doing. He willfully allowed the throwing off of God’s rule into the earth, and death followed*. *Hosea 6:7, I Timothy 2:14, Romans 5:12
It is that law-less-ness that Jesus took away, He carried on Himself the rule of man that throws off the rule of God, the singular SIN of the world – that is why Paul calls Jesus ‘the last Adam’* – Jesus carried on Himself and removed the SIN Adam had released into the earth. *I Corinthians 15:45
Jesus took away the sin of the world, so that means individual sins have no power over us, and once you know that it can rock your world - more next week,